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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

McCain Caught in a Dilemma

WASHINGTON -- Republican presidential candidate John McCain has a big decision ahead of him -- picking a vice presidential running mate whose presence on the ticket would reassure Americans concerned about his age.

McCain is 71 and would be the oldest person ever elected to a first presidential term. Voters do not typically base their vote on the vice presidential choice, but they do want to be assured that the running mate would be able to take over if the president were to die or become incapacitated.

When questions arose about Ronald Reagan's age (69) during the 1980 election, Reagan picked one of the men he had vanquished for the Republican presidential nomination, George H.W. Bush, and Bush's reassuring presence largely silenced questions about Reagan's age.

It is a scenario not lost on the McCain team.

"For Reagan in 1980, age was a big question ... a bigger issue than it is for McCain," said McCain adviser Charlie Black. "The day Reagan picked George Bush, it went away. People looked at it and said, 'Oh, we know this guy, we know he can handle it.'"

Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian, said the most reassuring person McCain could pick in the Republican Party would be Colin Powell, 70, a former secretary of state and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"Powell is someone everyone could imagine as president," Brinkley said.